Talking Culture: Ethnography and Conversation Analysis

Talking Culture: Ethnography and Conversation Analysis

Talking Culture: Ethnography and Conversation Analysis

Talking Culture: Ethnography and Conversation Analysis

Synopsis

Argues that anyone-anthropologist, psychologist, or policeman-who uses what people say to find out what people think had better know how speech itself is organized.

Excerpt

This book examines relationships among language, society, culture, and thought. Less grandly, it connects conversation analysis with ethnography. The words "conversation" and "analysis" are not protected by copyright. Such distinguished scholars as J. L. Austin, Erving Goffman, P. Grice, John Gumperz, and William Labov have contributed to our understanding of conversation. But the mode of study that I endorse and represent is the research lineage founded by the late Harvey Sacks. Whenever this book mentions "conversation analysis," it is to this research tradition that the term refers. Early chapters are intended to provide sufficient introduction to the aspirations, flavor, techniques, and findings of conversation analysis for this book to stand on its own. But more dedicated readers would do well to consult Stephen C. Levinson's (1983:284-370) excellent overview, and to then go (in this order) to: Schenkein 1978:1-6, Appendix B of this book, Sacks 1974, Schegloff & Sacks 1973. These are sufficient preparation for the more technical papers in conversation analysis. Of these, Sacks, et al. 1974 is canonic.

The term "ethnomethodology" has become such a banner and bugbear that I hesitate to use it. But it is the proper name for viewing "the objective reality of social facts as an ongoing accomplishment of the concerted activities of daily life" (Garfinkel 1967: vii), and for "discovering the formal properties of commonplace...actions 'from within' actual settings, as ongoing accomplishments of those settings" (ibid.: viii). Ethnomethodology is thus the intellectual tradition in which conversation analysis and this book were formed. I cannot define my debt to Harold Garfinkel, but I know that it is great, am glad to acknowledge it, and am unable to discharge it.

Conversation analysis awaited the invention of the portable sound recorder that freed the student of speech from the distortions of standardization, self-interest . . .

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